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FOOTBALL: Long run sparks Westbrook over Cape Elizabeth

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Posted: Saturday, September 29, 2012 2:03 pm | Updated: 3:41 pm, Thu Oct 11, 2012.

CAPE ELIZABETH – With points hard to come by on a wet and windy night, one big play made all the difference in Friday’s Class B showdown between Westbrook and Cape.

With his team down 7-6 late in the third quarter, Westbrook halfback Ben Grant took the ball around the left end, made a few moves to get to the sideline and didn’t stop until he hit pay dirt 78 yards later for the go-ahead score.

Grant’s big run was by far the longest play of the night, and from there on in it was all Westbrook as Cale Bollig ran in the two-point conversion and added an insurance TD later in the fourth as the Blue Blazes defeated the host Capers 22-7 to move to 4-1. Cape falls to 2-3.

“I think that was a difference, that was a big one,” Cape Elizabeth coach Aaron Filieo said of Grant’s score. “We were playing pretty decent defense, we had him dead to rights and we let him go, and that’s a tough one to swallow.”

After gaining just 63 yards of offense in the first half, Westbrook’s ground game kicked into gear in the second even as the rain grew heavier, gaining 218 yards in the last 24 minutes to take over.

Grant led the Blue Blazes with 84 yards and the TD on just four carries, while Bollig added 76 yards and two scores and quarterback Kyle Heath chipped in 110 yards on the ground.

“I thought the kids really executed in the second half,” Westbrook coach Jeff Guerette said. “The conditions deteriorated a little bit as the game went on and I think both teams struggled handling the ball. We were able to execute a few things in the ground game and find a few things we liked.”

Execution was hard to come by in the first half as both teams struggled to move, and hang on to, the ball.

Cape had the game’s first great chance nine minutes in when Westbrook running back Collin Joyce fumbled at his own 11, setting up the Capers with great field position. But the Westbrook defense rose to the occasion, stuffing runs by Jack Drinan and Nick Moultin and forcing two incomplete passes from quarterback Noah Wolfinger for a big stop.

The Cape defense also forced a three-and-out to get the ball back at the Westbrook 40, but could gain just two yards before having to punt it right back.

The first sustained drive of the game came from the Westbrook offense midway through the second as they marched the ball from their own 33 down to the Cape 7-yard-line thanks to a 15-yard Bollig run and 11- and 23-yard runs by Heath, who would have had the game’s first score on the latter if not for a shoestring tackle by Wolfinger.

But from there the drive stalled as Bollig was stuffed for a loss of one and a fumbled snap move the Blue Blazes back to the 13. A screen pass to Joyce on third down gained nothing, and a Joyce halfback pass was snuffed out on fourth.

Taking over at their own 13 with 3:32 to play, it looked like the Capers would be content to just try to run the clock down to half. But fullback Christian Lavallee gained 30 on a third and 3 to bring the ball out to midfield, and runs by Lavallee and Moulton added 10 more.

From there it was the Ethan Murphy show, as Wolfinger connected with the receiver on throws of 24 and then 16 yards for the score, with the touchdown coming on a perfect back-shoulder throw at the pylon with just 28 seconds on the clock.

Playing in just his third game since starter Connor Maguire went down with an injury, Wolfinger has impressed his coach with both his arm and his poise.

“He’s been great,” Filieo said. “He’s making good decisions, he’s making good plays, without him we wouldn’t even be in these games.”

Cameron Wilson added the PAT to make it 7-0 at break.

“We did some things in the first half that we worked on during the week and they came to fruition,” Filieo said. “As a coach anytime your team executes things that you’ve put into place during the week, it’s a good feeling.”

The good feeling wouldn’t last too long for the Cape coach, as the Blue Blazes forced a three and out to open the second and then marched the ball 60 yards in eight plays for their opening score, capped by a Bollig 5-yard run as the Westbrook ball carriers found some running room at last.

Bollig’s two-point conversion rush was stopped, but Cape again went three and out when Devon Grant sacked Wolfinger on a key third down.

That’s when Grant, with just 1-yard on one carry up to now, made his mark. The senior took the ball with a head of steam down the left, avoided the Cape linebackers and found daylight. He avoided Murphy’s last-ditch tackle at the 40 and was gone from there.

“It was just a play waiting to happen. It was a great run, good blocking, I just cut it tight and went,” Grant said. “I just didn’t want to get defeated by an open field tackle, that was the worst thing that could have happened with that one.”

The play rattled the Capers, who fumbled on the first play of the ensuing drive. They got the ball back when Westbrook also fumbled but again had to punt back to the Blue Blazes with 10:22 to play.

That’s when Westbrook took the game over once and for all, using the 1-2 punch of Heath and Bollig on a 72-yard scoring drive that took six minutes off the clock. When Bollig went in from 10 yards out with 4:32 to play, it was all over.

After gaining 89 of his teams 134 yards in the first half, Lavallee rushed for just 16 in the second as the Westbrook defensive interior of Grant, Josh Tardiff and J.J. Garcia stiffened. Without its bread and butter power game up the middle, the Cape offense floundered, managing just 17 net yards from scrimmage and one first down in the second half.

“The defense was great,” Guerette said. “We knew that they would be a physical team, we knew that they liked to feature the fullback, but we wanted to make them earn the field. We didn’t panic, I thought that was important. If they were going to beat us with the fullback they were going to have to earn it, but we didn’t panic and stuck to what we do.”

After being gashed for 27 second-half points against Greely two weeks ago and 346 yards in their 58-28 win over Fryeburg Academy last week, Grant said the team knew getting a strong performance out of the defense at Cape was of major importance.

“It was a big of emphasis for us this week because last week we didn’t feel satisfied with our defense,” Grant said. “This week I feel like we really stepped it up, especially in the second half.”

With the win Westbrook now sits in a five-way tie atop Western Class B, along with Marshwood, Wells, Greely and York, who they’ll host this Friday at 7 p.m.

For the Capers, it's Marshwood next on the docket this Friday at 7 p.m. in South Berwick. They’ll then finish off the regular season with big games against Fryeburg Academy and at rivals Mountain Valley, both of whom also sit at 2-3.

With Maguire possibly returning this week, getting into the postseason, where anything can happen in what has proven to be an unpredictable and wide-open Class B, is now the goal.

“We’ve got some tough games coming up, and we’ve got to win them,” Filieo said. “We just need to get in, because we feel like we can play with anybody and we feel like we can beat these teams we’re playing with. We just want an opportunity to be able to put it together and do that. But you’ve got to get in first.”

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